Part one can be found here and part two can be found here. You can find part three here.
What has been the cause of this idea that everyone should win just for showing up? Certainly, part of it is good intentions. Of course, there is an old saying about the path to a certain hot place being lined with good intentions.
What about our own issues? Have you ever watched the parents at many youth sporting events? It's ridiculous. Too often, the identity of the parents is found in the accomplishments of their children. In part, I think this is because we utilize all kinds of weird and unrealistic accolades to describe youth sports. We tell people that the greatest day of their lives will be this Friday night's football game that no one will actually remember in five years. That is probably a post for another day.
I also think we are a society of extremes. We do not want anyone to feel badly about themselves. In many respects, a proper self-esteem has become a new god. We don't even care if that god is built upon stuff that doesn't actually work. In other words as a commenter mentioned on a previous post, many of the kids know that the just show up awards are not all that significant.
Perhaps the biggest reason for this movement over the last few decades is that we tend to be a society of extremes. Too many people put too much emphasis on winning in the last decade. To be sure, there are still many people who put too much emphasis on winning.
Measuring a person’s self worth based on winning is simply wrong and dangerous. This “everyone can win just for showing up” mentality seems to be a reaction to that.
But doesn’t it do exactly the opposite of what it sets out to do?
Doesn’t this mentality say that winners matter, but everyone is a winner?
We cannot eliminate measurements and winning. They are a part of life. I am a trainer for the physical management aspect of the hospital where I work. Occasionally we have to fail someone who cannot physically perform the needed tasks in order for everyone to be safe. They attend the entire training, only to be told that they cannot continue in this job because they cannot pass the class. Do you want someone who was certified just because they showed up? How about a doctor?
The person who built your home?
Of course we don’t want these people to be certified simply because they showed up. We want them to be compentent.
This brings up an interesting question for me. What happens when these people who have grown up winning just for showing up really do lose for the first time. What happens the first time someone says, “no, that’s not good enough.”?
There are so many inherent contradictions in what we are teaching from what we actually doing in this mess.
Contradiction #1. Life is about the journey.
This is a contradiction because we are saying you have to win (or get an award) to really feel accomplished.
Contradiction #2. Our identity is more than what we accomplish
But you have to have this award (sign of accomplishment to have a good identity)
Contradiction #3. Hard work is its own reward
But just in case it’s not enough let us give you this silly award that half of you are going to laugh at and the other half are going to think is real life.
Contradiction #4. Grades are earned.
But we want you to feel good about yourself so we’re going to take a few points from this A student and give it to the C student because they both worked really hard.
Our greatest failure is that we are attempting to teach that life is fair. It simply is not. When I was an athletic director and coach, I would attend band events. They were raucous affairs, where the trombone and the drums would dual. They were a lot of fun. Some of the events were very serious affairs.Do you know that not once did any parent, student, or faculty member come up to me and congratulate me on how being a part of the band? Of course, I wasn’t a part of the band. It wasn’t my role. I can’t play an instrument, sing or dance.
I was at many of the practices. I had students pulled out of some classes to do some set up type stuff.
I was still at the school working hard to get many things done. I would have been a bad fit for the band. Still, I’d like my certificate please.
The truth is that sometimes our best doesn’t get us what we want. Sometimes, we try as hard as we can and we fail short. At these times, we need a better plan than everyone winning.
One of my professors in graduate school had us read a paper where there was a study done that suggested the following results from this show up and win mentality. The paper suggested that there were at least four major negative consequences:
1 Depression and resulting anger
- We tend to be as mature as we have to be and no more.
- Part of growing up is learning to adapt to things that we encounter. If we don’t know how to adapt to something because we’ve never encountered it we can become depressed and angry.
2 Fear of trying again
- This can be both a fear of being abandoned and of abandoning whatever we are trying because it is too hard.
4 Lack of resilience.
The biggest complaint I hear when I am doing my consulting work is that new employees cannot be told no. If a rule doesn’t make sense to them, they simply don’t follow it. They want raises based just on showing up. How many times have you heard some one threaten to quit because they didn’t like being told no or they didn’t like being reprimanded? How many times has someone thought they should get a promotion that went to someone else and they threatened to quit? Never mind that there were more people applying than positions open.
Here is my last question of this post. If everyone wins, everyone plays, etc. how do we learn to cheer for others? How do we learn to celebrate the success of others, even when we fail at it? Doesn’t this mentality create more selfishness? How do you think the everyone wins, you get an award just for showing up and all of life should be fun mentality is effecting marriages and families?
Tomorrow, I will finish this series with some thoughts on what we can do to change this mentality and the resulting problems.